M.D.Tenn.: Def was sitting in car on friend’s curtilage visiting the friend, and officer violated curtilage to look in car window

Defendant was in his car on another person’s curtilage when he was there to visit. The officer’s walking up to the car on the curtilage of the owner to look in defendant’s car window violated the Fourth Amendment. United States v. Darden, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 207956 (M.D. Tenn. Dec. 10, 2018):

On the issue of curtilage, one more matter needs to be addressed. The Government argues that Whitlock lacks standing because he had no ownership or other rights to the 308 Glenn Street residence. In fact, he did not even live in the home. After citing numerous cases that stand for the proposition that visitors lack standing to challenge the search of an apartment or home, the Government argues:

It stands to reason that, if casual visitors who are present inside a searched premises lack standing to challenge a search of that premises, Whitlock lacks standing to challenge the search of a vehicle parked outside a premises over which he has asserted no connection at all.

(Doc. No. 66 at 4, emphasis in original).

The Government’s argument is a faulty syllogism, a prologism, or both, and the conclusion does not flow from the premise. It would be one thing if Whitlock were objecting to the search of the home, but he is not. What he is objecting to is the search of a vehicle in which he was the driver and sole occupant. “[L]aw enforcement officers may seize evidence in plain view, provided that they have not violated the Fourth Amendment in arriving at the spot from which the observation of the evidence is made.” Kentucky v. King, 563 U.S. 452, 462-63 (2011). In other words, “the Fourth Amendment requires … that the steps preceding the seizure be lawful.” Id. at 463. The “spot” from where Hurst looked through the Caprice’s window was within the curtilage of a home and a place where neither he nor Love had a right to be.

Accordingly, Whitlock’s Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained on March 3, 2005 (Doc. No. 553) is GRANTED and the evidence seized from the Caprice at 308 Glenn Street will NOT BE admitted at trial.

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